Michael Caine didn’t plan to have two British spy thrillers released on the same day, it just worked out that way. Of the two, The Whistle-Blower is the more involving and emotional. The Fourth Protocol, while admittedly crisper, is a more mechanical affair.
It’s based on the Frederick Forsyth novel, and Forsyth also adapted the screenplay, as well as executive-producing the movie with Caine. Forsyth’s idea here is that a KGB agent (Pierce Brosnan) infiltrates England and sets himself up in a house near an American air base. Through the Soviet espionage network, he receives a series of items which, when assembled, will construct an atomic bomb.
Caine plays an English intelligence man, something of a renegade, who first sniffs out the plot and must collar his adversary before the bomb goes off. There is, or course, much complicated spy stuff to be chewed over in the course of the hunt.
Caine is fine, though I’d like to see him in a comedy again soon. Brosnan, the star of “Remington Steele,” is effectively grim, perhaps with the memory of how he lost the James Bond role.
The film finds juicy supporting parts for Ned Beatty (who, with The Big Easy, also had two films open on the same day) and Ian Richardson. There’s not much of interest for the beautiful Joanna Cassidy (Under Fire), as a Soviet agent who, in the course of putting the bomb together, gets an erotic yen for Brosnan. She deserves better than this.
The director, John Mackenzie, made a crackling gangster film a few years ago, The Long Good Friday. He’s a better director than this material, but he does keep The Fourth Protocol on its clock-watching course.
First published in the Herald, September 1, 1987
George Axelrod is credited with “screen story,” but Forsyth wrote the novel and also the screenplay. Go figure.